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Berland will never return to Israel voluntarily

  • Rabbi Eliezer Berland - HOME
Dutch daily NRC published an exclusive interview with Rabbi Berland’s lawyer, Louis de Leon, today. Read how the ailing Rav hopes a newfound diplomatic status could be the game-changer in Israel’s attempts to extradite him, how he escaped from Holland. Israel "wanted to taunt him", says De Leon. He explains Berland’s side of those supposed sex crimes which turned him into the “rabbi-on-th'e-run” and confirms Berland’s plan plant roots in SA.
by ANT KATZ | Dec 11, 2015

"Rabbi on-the-run" Elizer Berland fled his home, Israel, when police wanted to question him regarding charges of sexual molestation several years ago. The leader of the Shuvu Bonim Breslov Chassidic sect, remains head of his yeshiva in Jerusalem, with whom he is in regular contact. His travels, with many of his followers in tow, have seen him trying to settle in several places - including Morocco, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

After a second botched attempt to arrest him by the elite Hawks unit of the SA Police Service (SAPS) - on what was supposedly an arrest and extradition warrant - Rabbi Berland, along with his wife and close friend and financier Yaron Yamin (now a mining magnate in Zimbabwe who says he owes it all to Berland), fled SA for Holland in September 2014.

Berland in custodyBerland was arrested on arrival at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam at the behest of Israeli authorities – but when brought before a judge, it was established that no arrest warrant for him existed in his home country.

He was therefore released (but his passport was withheld) and he was free to travel across all Schengen countries until Israel got its paperwork in order.

Israel did what it had to do, and Berland was ordered to be extradited to Israel.

After his appeal of that finding agreed with the original order in July, it was discovered that he had, once again, fled.

In September, he and about 200 followers arrived back in SA and were issued with three-month tourist visas. They are reportedly living in a custom-built facility somewhere between Johannesburg and Pretoria, do not leave so as not to be of concern to local Jewry in SA, and reportedly have schools and a shul on site.

Rabbi Berland, however, reportedly keeps moving around SA and neither the SAPS nor Hawks are able to say whether there is (or ever was) a warrant for his arrest, or whether they are investigating him.



Revealing NRC story/interview 

The following is a translation of the original interview published in NRC on Friday December 11 – and which can be read directly in Dutch here: ‘Ik geloof niet dat Berland ooit vrijwillig naar Israël terugkeert’ in which NRC editor, Danielle Pinedo speaks to Louis de Leon, the Dutch lawyer of Rabbi Eliezer Berland.



For almost a year, he had minds churning in Netherlands: Eliezer Berland, better known as "the sex rabbi” – appeared in Holland in October 2014. He denied allegations of sexual abuse in his native Israel and travelled with his followers across the country: Flushing, Oldebroek, Volendam, Apeldoorn, Maasbree, and Buitenveldert.

After the Supreme Court ruled in early July this year that the 77-year-old Berland was to be extradited to Israel, he went on the run.

According to his former lawyer Louis de Leon he would not voluntarily submit to the Israeli authorities. "That was his honour," according to De Leon in the first interview he has given after the disappearance of the rabbi. "They wanted to taunt him and he was not amused."


The scoop, read the interview



NRC Question:
Why would the Israeli authorities like to taunt him?

De Leon: "Berland was on a collision course with the people who have a say in Israeli politics. They tried to show him in a bad light. Extradition would have fed a negative publicity campaign, according to him. He feared he would be fair game."

 



Q: Because he was too critical, as he claimed himself before?

A: "Yes."



Q: Berland is suspected of lewd acts with several women. That is no minor charge.

Rabbi Berland HollandA: "I've studied the dossier. I have found no reference to sex there. His disciples came to him, not vice versa. Of the women who signed (affidavits) against him were a number involved in divorce. They wanted a ‘get’ (a Jewish order of divorce) which their husbands would not grant them. Rabbi Berland stuck his neck out for them. You do not see this much in Orthodox Jewish circles. In this respect he is very progressive."



Q: So what went wrong?

A: "To get the husbands of these women to grant their wives their gets, Rabbi Berland promised them everything – even apartments. When he failed to keep his promises, the problems started. [At around this stage there was reportedly a massive misappropriation of funds from the Shuvu Bonim yeshiva which may account for this… SAJR online editor]. One of the husbands called Berland a charlatan. That infuriated his followers and they beat the man up severely. The police made it appear as if Berland had issued a fatwa. That is nonsense. He had no knowledge of it. Then, the women he had tried to help, were persuaded by their husbands to make false declarations against him."



Q: Did you know that your client had planned to flee?

A: "No, but I knew he did not want to co-operate with his extradition. I wasn’t surprised that he fled, but the timing surprised me. There was no question of expulsion. The minister had to decide. If the minister had decided to agree to the extradition, we had planned to file a lawsuit."



Q: Berland had little faith in a positive outcome?

Berland Holland Feb 15"He wanted to rather be safe than sorry."



Q: Do you know how he escaped?

"I suspect the plane of one of his followers. Because he had handed in his Israeli passport, it would not have been on a commercial airline. A private jet, I guess."



Q: You say he has has hundreds of thousand followers all over the world?

A: "Yes. There are also very prominent and wealthy people in between, including a former mayor of Jerusalem."



Q: The rumours are that he is in South Africa?

A: "Yes. He resides near Johannesburg. He has a kind of diplomatic status, making him criminally immune and cannot be held if Israel appeals to South Africa."



Q: Would he settle for good in this country?

A: "It looks that way. He is raising money for a yeshiva. I asked him before his flight: 'Do you mind if you never set foot in Israel again?' He replied: ‘Moses also did not succeed after forty years.’ I do not think Berland would ever voluntarily return to Israel."



Q: Before his escape he was in a physically shocking state. How is he now?

A: "Not much better. He has diabetes and suffers from heart disease. He will probably not live long."



Q: When did you and he last talk?

A: "Just before his departure. Through the grapevine, I stay informed of his condition."




This interview appeared in the print edition of Dutch mainstream daily NRC on Friday December 11.

Related reads on SAJR

To follow all the MAIN STORIES published in Jewish Report Online last year, read: How we cracked the story of the year which includes links to other stories of 2014 below the main story.

 

To follow some of the RECENT REPORTS on Jewish Report Online: On July 7, after his appeal was turned down, we ran R  Berland flees Holland, not hospitalised – reports followed on August 5 by Rabbi Berland found - out of reach of Israeli policeWhether this was a clever ploy or real? However, in September this year he turned up in South Africa and in October, SAJR published: Rabbinical Pimpernel back in SA followed shortly by Berland wants followers to avoid conflict after an interview with three of his closest followers.

 

1 Comment

  1. 1 Denis Solomons 15 Dec
    Obviously Rabbi Eliezer Berland is not going to return to Israel by his own free will ! 
    He knows what waits for him !
    He will be jailed for sexual molestation .
    So he is the Rabbi on the run .
    Run Rabbi(t) run !

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